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History of the Torah and Criticism of its Chain of Transmission

MIT
1/28/2016
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The Torah is the central reference of the religious Judaic tradition.  The term Torah means instruction and offers a way of life for those who follow it. It can even mean the totality of Jewish teaching, culture and practice. Torah consists of the foundational narrative of the Jews: their call into being by God, their trials and tribulations, and their covenant with their God, which involves following a way of life embodied in a set of moral and religious obligations and civil laws.

 

According to Rabbinic Judaism the word, "Torah" denotes both the five books, Torah Shebichtav ("Torah that is written") and an Oral Torah, Torah Shebe'al Peh ("Torah that is spoken"). Torah that is spoken represents those laws, statutes, and legal interpretations that were not recorded in the Five Books of Moses, the "Written Torah".

 

The Oral Torah consists of interpretations and amplifications, which according to rabbinic tradition have been handed, down from generation to generation and are now embodied in the Talmud and Midrash.

 

According to rabbinic tradition, all of the teachings found in the Torah, both written and oral, were given by God through prophet Moses, some at Mount Sinai and others at the Tabernacle. All the teachings were written down by Moses, which resulted in the Torah we have today.  According to a Midrash, the Torah was created prior to the creation of the world, and was used as the blueprint for Creation. While the majority of Biblical scholars believe that the written books were a product of the Babylonian exilic period (c. 600 BCE) and that, it was completed by the Persian period (c. 400 BCE).

 

It should be borne in mind that Muslims do believe that the Torah was revealed to Moses and not created, and the Gospel was revealed to Jesus. However, it is pretty obvious from these books as they appear in the Bible today that neither of the two books are the same with the ones, which were revealed to these Prophets of God (Allah) or even dictated by them. They are more of a historian's account of the lives and teachings of Moses and Jesus respectively than books revealed to them.

 

The Bible that is normally read around the world today is basically a translation of the (narration of the) original text. The various books that constitute the Bible today were first written in languages other than English or German, Urdu, or Arabic. For example, the Genesis is thought to be originally written in Hebrew. So is Exodus and the other books of the Pentateuch.

 

Let us consider the Torah (or the Pentateuch). The Torah is believed to be revealed by God to Moses. Thus it is believed to be revealed somewhere around the 13th century BC. However, the books that we have with us today that constitute the Torah do not date as farther back. Furthermore, experts on the text of the Bible also believe that the Torah, as we have it now, was not written or even dictated by Moses himself. Geddes MacGregor, in his book, "The Bible in the Making" writes:

 

"All you have to do to see that the Old Testament as we know it did not come straight from the pen of its several authors, is to look at the first three chapters of Genesis. There you will find two quite distinct accounts of the creation of man. The account in the first chapter is startling different from the account in the second and third. It also quotes from the Roman Catholic Encyclopedia admitting that the Bible had been corrupt and the original manuscripts had been lost".






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